Dinosaur Island (1994, directed by Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski)

What do you get when a producer like Roger Corman notices that Jurassic Park was the most financially successful film of 1993?

Dinosaur Island!

Directed by not just Fred Olen Ray but also Jim Wynorski (and if that combination isn’t enough to spark your interest, I don’t know what is), Dinosaur Island is about what happens when a cargo plane transporting three AWOL soldiers back to the United States crashes near an uncharted island. Led by no-nonsense Capt. Briggs (Ross Hagen), the soldiers make it to the island.

They discover that the island is full of beautiful cavewomen who spend much of their time topless. For the film’s intended audience of teenage boys, that’s good.

They discover that the women are ruled by a queen (Toni Naples) who hates men. That’s bad.

When the women notice that one of the men has a smiley face tattoo, they decide that he is the chosen one who has been prophesized about in the ancient scrolls. That’s good, I guess.

Chosen or not, the men still have to battle the Tyrannosaurs Rex that rules the island. That’s bad. Or is it good? I don’t know anymore.

To save money, Roger and the gang reused the dinosaur who appeared in Corman’s previous Jurassic hit, Carnosaur. They also reused a lot of stock footage from that film. The Carnosaur footage often doesn’t match with the footage that was shot for Dinosaur Island but I don’t know that anyone would expect anything less from Corman-produced rip-off of Jurassic Park. There are some films where the cheapness of it all become a selling point and this is one of them. The special effects are less important than marveling at how the movie got a dinosaur without spending any money.

Dinosaur Island is a bad movie with less than convincing special effects and a lot of overacting but it seems to be aware of its limitations so it’s hard not to like it. It’s obvious that Ray and Wynorski both understood that there was no way that they were gong to be able to make a serious film with the resources that they had available so instead, they shot a flat-out comedy that made fun of its own cheapness. It was the right approach to take, even though the film’s jokes are as often groan-worthy as they are funny. Among the cast, Ross Hagen seemed to have the best understanding of what was needed because he deadpans his way through the entire film, delivering his weird lines with a straight face and giving a performance that wouldn’t be out of place in Airplane! or one of the other ZAZ films.

Not surprisingly, this was a popular film on late night cable back on the day. It’s combination of boobs, jokes, and dinosaurs made it a Cinemax mainstay. Rewatching it, I knew how stupid it was but I couldn’t help but laugh at a few parts. I enjoyed viewing it again. Nostalgia is more powerful than any dinosaur.

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